A Trip to the Moon – September 1, 1902On this day in history 117 years ago, filmmaker Georges Méliès introduced the world to science fiction, in his 18-minute long hand-colored silent film about traveling to the moon. Méliès became famous for his theatrical style, fancy sets, and special effects. Although the film was silent, it was meant to be presented alongside a live orchestra and narrator, so the score varied from theater to theater. Méliès pioneered the style of leaving the camera stationary, aimed at a single set, to mimic the perspective of an audience member. The scene of the space capsule landing in the moon’s eye is considered one of the most iconic images in cinema history.
The Third Man – September 2, 1949This film, now 70 years old, is still considered one of the greatest British films ever made. Graham Greene wrote the screenplay, which follows Holly Martins to Vienna for a job, only to find the friend who requested he come to Vienna for the job is now dead from suspicious circumstances. Greene wrote the story as a novella first, to prep for the screenplay. There are some notable differences in the script from screenplays of today, including the specific camera shots Greene included. The film is also an excellent example of atmospheric cinematography.
Children of Men – September 3, 2006Widely regarded as one of the best dystopian thrillers of all time, and one of the best science fiction movies of the 2000s, “Children of Men” painted a bleak picture of the year 2027 when humanity has become infertile and is on the brink of collapse. The screenplay was adapted from the novel by the same name written by P.D. James, with screenplay credits going to Hawk Ostby, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Alfonso Cuaron, and Timothy Sexton. It’s known for its simple yet powerful plot, advanced by special effects.
El Mariachi – September 4, 1992Robert Rodriguez wrote and directed this Guinness World Record holder for the least expensive movie to ever gross more than $1 million. He produced the film for just $7,225. It was Rodriguez’s first feature-length movie, and launched his trilogy now known as “Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy,” to include “Desperado” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” The Spanish-language film centers on a mariachi performer who is mistaken for a murderous man who carries a gun in his guitar case.
The Shawshank Redemption – September 10, 1994Based on the short story by Stephen King, “The Shawshank Redemption” is now considered one of IMDB’s top-rated movies of all time, and the U.S. Library of Congress chose the film for preservation in the National Film Registry. Frank Darabont purchased the rights from King to develop the movie, then wrote the script over two months. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay and has become a beloved story of hope and freedom.
Boogie Nights – September 11, 1997“Boogie Nights” by Paul Thomas Anderson is still praised as one of the most accurate portrayals of the not-so-glamorous 1970s exotic films industry. The story features strong character development, and Anderson manages to present what could be a sleazy topic in a way that made audiences feel for the cast. The Academy nominated the script for Best Original Screenplay, as did the Golden Globes, and the British Film Academy.
At the Movies with Siskel & Ebert – September 13, 1986It’s been 33 years since we were first introduced to the late Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, the notorious film critics of the “Siskel & Ebert” TV show. The pair became the leading critics on film, often trading spars with each other over their reviews before ultimately giving the film a thumbs up or thumbs down. Their famous “Two Thumbs Up” phrase is still part of the film review lingo, and many movies ended up using the rating on the VHS and DVD boxes to attract rentals.
Days of Heaven – September 13, 1978Early reviews of “Days of Heaven” said the only redeeming quality about the film was its cinematography, which seemed to be inspired by an Edward Hopper painting. But later, film critics came to appreciate this Terrence Malick movie not only for its stunning visual elements but for the story he painted through that imagery. The screenplay itself has been called “mesmerizing.” The film was notoriously difficult to produce because Malick insisted on using natural lighting and the shooting schedule was tight. But it paid off in the end with a Cannes award for best director and an Academy Award for best cinematography. The film also tops many lists as one of the best movies ever made.
Se7en – September 15, 1995SPOILER ALERT: That famous scene at the end of “Se7en,” with the head in the box? It almost didn’t happen, according to screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker. While the scene was in Walker’s original screenplay, the first director attached to the script asked Walker to rewrite the story to remove that part. By accident, the original version of the script ended up on director David Fincher’s desk. He loved the shocking ending, and thus directed the “Se7en” as we know it. It was Walker’s first optioned script, and it allowed him to quit his day job at Tower Records and finally pursue screenwriting full-time.
The Spirit of the Beehive – September 18, 1973Written by Victor Erice and Angel Fernandez Santos, this early 70’s Spanish-language film captured an allegorical quality few other films had before it. “The Spirit of the Beehive” centers on a young girl who is deeply affected by the movie “Frankenstein,” withdrawing into a fantasy world that sometimes finds her in trouble. The film features a heavy layer of symbolism, with both writers being impacted by Spain’s isolation during the early stages of the Francoist State in Spain. “The Spirit of the Beehive” refers to the idea that bees are ordered and organized but lack free will and creativity. Hexagonal patterns can be seen throughout the film, as well as honey-colored light. Roger Ebert added the film to his “Great Movies” section, and it maintains a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Stephen King – September 21, 1947Happy birthday, Stephen King! The “King of Horror” turns 72 today. He has more than 50 novel credits to his name and has sold more than 350 million copies of his stories, not to mention many of which have been turned into films, comic books and TV shows, including the recent “Castle Rock.” King’s memoir “On Writing” remains one of the most recommended books for writers, while his book “The Shining” is one of his most famous. King is said to have Triskaidekaphobia or the irrational fear of the number 13, and has been quoted as saying he won’t stop writing on page 13 or stop reading on any double-digit page numbers that add up to 13.
Friends – September 22, 1994In an interview with Ellen Degeneres, Jennifer Aniston recalled having dinner with her castmates in Las Vegas before the first episode of “Friends” aired in 1994. The director James Burrows treated the cast, saying it was the last time the cast would ever be able to go out on the town unrecognized. “Friends,” created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, went on to become one of the most popular TV shows of all time and will go down in history as one of the most beloved stories of friendship, life, and love. It focused evenly on six characters instead of one, despite NBC’s request that the script feature one dominant storyline and several minor stories. The creators refused, and NBC eventually gave in. Earlier titles for the show included “Six of One” and “Friends Like Us,” but after several script rewrites and name changes, NBC settled on “Friends.”
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – September 24, 1969The screenplay for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” by William Goldman won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1970, as well as three other Oscars. The story follows two outlaws, Butch and Sundance, who are on the run from a special posse and decide to escape to Bolivia. The story is loosely based on the true story of Butch Cassidy, which Goldman researched for nearly a decade before finally writing the screenplay. Initially, only one studio showed interest in purchasing the script. So, Goldman re-worked a few pages and said suddenly every studio wanted it. The script is ranked #11 by the WGA as one of the 101 greatest screenplays ever written.
Pedro Almódovar – September 25, 1949Happy birthday, Pedro Almódovar! He is one of the most famous Spanish filmmakers, directors, screenwriters, and producers, and he turns 70 years old today. Almódovar’s films have developed a cult following, and he credits his international success with creating movies that entertain. His stories often use symbolism and metaphors and feature strong female characters and LGBT cultural references. Almódovar didn’t go to film school because he couldn’t afford it, so instead, he worked hard to save up for a Super 8 camera. That purchase would be life-changing, as the filmmaker’s short films became rising stars in Spain’s “La Movida” pop-cultural movement of the 70s. He later established a production company with his brother and has gone on to produce more than 20 films.
The images in this blog were modified and originally appeared on Wikimedia Commons.